Category: war and society

    Waging War with Factories

    Production. B-17F heavy bomber. Working on the roof of a B-17F (Flying Fortress) bomber swung over on its side in the Boeing plant at Seattle. A turret will be mounted over the large circular opening. The Flying Fortress, a four-engine heavy bomber capable of flying at high altitudes, has performed with great credit in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere.

    – Andreas Feininger, December 1942, United States, Office of War Information, Library of Congress

    The library has a large collection of photos showing the manufacture of B-17 bombers under the subject heading United States–Washington–King County–Seattle.

    Links: Russo-Ukrainian War

    Here are some worthwhile articles related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. No paywalls – all links lead to freely available texts.

    Under Cover of War: The Kremlin’s Fascist Project" by Nancy Ries, Today’s Totalitarianism, August 2022.

    The war is a profound turning point, ending any pretense of “soft” authoritarianism with its modicum of space for resistance. The Kremlin’s fascist project may not succeed in the end, but it is crucial to see its effects within Russia as a fundamental component of the 2022 attack on Ukraine…. The Kremlin structures its war-making machine in ways that deliberately produce atrocity…. [And on TV, there is] a “pedagogy” of exterminist consciousness and practice, a key tool of the fascist project unfolding within and beyond Russia.

    In Ukraine, I saw the greatest threat to the Russian world isn’t the west – it’s Putin" by Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, December 17, 2022.

    The Kremlin’s imperial war has made its own culture and language a common enemy for people across its former empire.

    “The Skill Involved in Zelensky’s Congressional Address” by James Fallows, Breaking the News, December 23, 2022.

    The words of the speech were ‘left brain,’ with careful writerly eloquence. The in-person performance was ‘right brain,’ with emotional power beyond the words. The combination was remarkable.

    “Special Issue: Weaponizing History in the Russo-Ukrainian War,” edited by Beatrice de Graaf and Lien Verpoest, Journal of Applied History, December 2022.


    Drawing in black, white, and red. Child in center with broken pieces of their former life around them, Russian rockets sticking tail-first out of the ground, each marked with a big Z and a rashist message. Captions: 'Stolen Childhood' and 'Stop Rashism'

    Art by @neivanmade on Instagram. The term "rashism" is what Ukrainians call Russian fascism.

    Ringing in the New Year: Peace and War, Hope and Fear

    1. Puck cartoon marking the new year in 1914. A young man (the New Year) in a smoking jacket and a vest labeled 1914 says to the old year, dressed as Uncle Sam, "Have something on me, old man! Whatll it be?" The choices are two whiskeys, one marked "hope" and the other "fear". They are in a well-furnished upper middle class salon with an overhead electric lamp lighting their faces. Source: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2011649657.
    2. Cartoon sketch by John T. McCutcheon titled "Is that the best he can wish us?," published in the Chicago Tribune on December 31, 1917. It portrays an old man, 1917, disappearing into the annals of history (literally pages, one marked "history") as he wishes a younger man with a globe for a head ("The World"), "Scrappy New Year!" The new year is dressed as a soldier and is weighed down by infantry kit as well as a few artillery tubes and merchant ships. Source: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2010717171/.
    3. Red, white, and blue New Year’s poster with Baby 1919 flanked by Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty. Behind them is a big red sun with the text, “World Peace with Liberty and Prosperity 1919.” Europe was still in turmoil and experiencing violence, but Americans had reason to be optimistic. Thus, this lithograph from United Cigars (logo at Liberty’s feet) seems apropos for the time. Source: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003652819/.

    Red Cross Poster with Christkind, circa 1917

    See accompanying text.

    "Christmas collection of the Bavarian Red Cross for our men in field gray" reads the caption of this Red Cross poster from Germany during the Great War. The angelic Christkind it features shines bright yellow in the dark Christmas night as she delivers parcels wrapped in field grey to men on the front. Stars twinkle above her, and there is snow underfoot. To her left is a sled heavy with more parcels, and to her right is a dependable, mustached soldier, pipe in mouth, a freshly delivered parcel in his hands.

    A photograph taken in Louisville, Kentucky the same year, shows a similar effort by the American Red Cross: women preparing Christmas parcels for American soldiers.

    Repository: Library of Congress.

    Death Wish for Their Soldiers

    I can’t shake these lines from Stasik’s “Lullaby for the Enemy” about Ukraine’s Donbas:

    You wanted this land
    Now mix with it
    You are my land now
    Sleep, sleep, sleep . . .

    I’m guessing that “earth” would be another translation option.

    More than a Euphemism

    Perhaps Putin’s phrase “special military operation” should be seen as something more insidious than a euphemism for war. At the very least, it is consistent with Russia’s genocidal aims and practices in Ukraine.

    If we take the Clausewitzian metaphor of war as a duel somewhat literally, the Russian invasion of Ukraine becomes a struggle between two equals, two entities with the same dignity, the same right to exist. After all, duels have traditionally been fought between two parties capable of giving satisfaction for a perceived injury by one to the other’s honor. An officer could duel another officer, but not a sergeant, a lowly conscript, or a civilian occupying a more modest social position.

    By calling its invasion a “special military operation,” Russia denies Ukraine’s worthiness and sovereignty. It casts Ukraine and Ukrainians as other, fundamentally inferior, or devoid of honor, so to speak. Rejecting Ukrainian statehood outright, the term “special military operation” facilitates what the talking heads in Russia discuss openly on state TV: genocide, the elimination of Ukrainian culture, ethnicity, and language.

    At the same time, the term “special military operation” renders Ukrainian resistance illegitimate in Russian eyes. Thus, Russia brands the soldiers who defended Mariupol to the end “terrorists.” And its leaders become apoplectic when Ukraine dares to fire on targets inside Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.

    Given the logic of Russia’s rhetoric and violence, the problem with “special military operation” becomes one not only of euphemism hiding war from Russians. The euphemism also creates space for, even favors, genocidal rhetoric and policy.

    Russian Anti-Austrian War Propaganda, 1914–15

    A peasant woman dressed in red, appears like a giantess in comparison to the terrified Austrians coming over the hill. She is merry, healthy color in her face, and a soldier scewered on her pitchfork.

    “An Austrian went to Radziwill and came right on to a peasant woman’s pitchfork,” Russian print by Kazimir Severinovich Malevich, 1914–15, New York Public Library Digital Collections. The library has digitized five more prints in this series.

    Munitions Workers

    Photograph of three women standing together in their work clothes

    Female employees of the German munitions factory WASAG in their work clothes, 1916. The one on the right seems to have been “conscripted” (zwangsverpflichtet), though it is unclear on what basis. She was also apparently highly skilled insofar as she was a production manager of some kind.

    Source: Haus der Geschichte Wittenberg, “Arbeiterinnen der WASAG Reinsdorf.”

    WYCA Poster, ca. 1918

    Young woman in a blue uniform at a field switchboard; in the background are countless men at arms, and, even further back, fire. The text reads, 'Back our girls over there' and 'United War Work Campaign'.

    WYCA Poster, ca. 1918, Library of Congress.

    War Savings Stamps Poster, 1917

    Poster showing a dozen people at a ticket window with a sign reading 'W.W.S. For Sale Here.' The clerk is Uncle Sam with his hat hanging on a hook next to him. The poster bears the captions 'Buy United States Government War Savings Stamps' (top) and 'Your money back with interest from the United States Treasury' (bottom).

    I find this 1917 poster interesting because it seems to target urban, working-class immigrants.1 Besides the dress of the people waiting in line to lend Uncle Sam some money, there is the American flag held by the child, whose enthusiasm attracts the attention of the adults around her.

    Children, whether immigrants themselves or native born, seem to have played a special role in immigrant families, mediating in different ways the adults' encounter with the culture and institutions of the new country. Certainly the authorities saw such potential in these children.2


    1. World War I poster advertising savings stamps for the war effort, via the Library of Congress↩︎

    2. On this last point, see Simone Lässig, “The History of Knowledge and the Expansion of the Historical Research Agenda,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 59 (Fall 2016): 29–32. ↩︎

    War, Gender, and Nation in 19th-Century Europe: A Preliminary Sketch

    Detail from “Combat at the military station: Of Chateau d’ Eau, 24th February 1848 / combat au poste: Du Château d’ Eau, 24 Févr. 1848

    I wrote this preliminary introduction for a thematic handbook article that was not to be (see “Historiographical Impasse”). Looking back at this 2015 draft, I think it contains enough ideas to make it worth sharing.

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